Carrying a 2-1 lead from the first leg into this Coppa Italia semi-final clash, Betty Bavagnoli’s Roma side traveled to Vinovo with the chance to dump out current coppa-holders Juventus. Both sides had to go without first-team regulars, as Barbara Bonansea was fit enough only to make Juventus’ bench and Roma had to leave star-playmaker Andressa out the side completely, with the Brazilian’s fitness ruling her out of the squad.
That meant Roma began this second leg with Lindsey Thomas playing in the hole, while Lazaro took up the striker slot up front, flanked with Annamaria Serturini on the left and Agnese Bonfantini on the right. It was this front four that delivered a win against Fiorentina last week, so Bavagnoli saw fit the keep with the same first-eleven for two games in a row.
But this time, a historic result was at stake.
The game opened up with Roma gifted two golden chances to really get some air between themselves and Juventus in this tie, as Lisa Boattin cleared the ball off the line twice in succession from Bonfantini and Serturini’s efforts on goal. That was all within the first five minutes, but then Roma settled into a shape that invited Juventus onto them for most of the rest of the half, clearly fancying their chances at trapping Juventus out wide before launching Giallorosse counter-attacks up the other end.
That approach would look questionable by the time Juventus took the lead on 17 minutes. It wasn’t as if Juve were looking amazing value for their lead, but nonetheless, a cross was floated into the Roma box and Juve’s Pedersen found the hang-time to head the ball back in the other direction, high and looping past Camelia Ceasar to give the home side a 1-0 lead at Vinovo. Juventus were now ahead on away goals in the tie, and there were question-marks all over the pitch as all the big names were putting in muted performances for both sides.
Elena Linari’s concentration at the back was found wanting several times in the first half, often losing her marking of Juventus’ Hurtig in particular. Meanwhile, Girelli was a no-show for Juventus herself. Roma’s tactics of letting Juventus pass the ball inside their own defensive half often made Bonfantini and Serturini look like passengers in the game, and neither Lindsey Thomas nor Paloma Lazaro were faring much better in the middle. It was left to unlikely hero Angelica Soffia to put the full dose of nitrous oxide into this game, and into Roma’s effort as a whole, from there on in.
Soffia was unrecognizable from the scrawny, scrappy debutante of two seasons ago. This was now an Italian full-back that was driving the ball THROUGH Juventus players, progressing Roma’s play almost on her lonesome at times, sometimes 50 yards-a-play at a time. But Soffia didn’t stop at isolating herself into a lone ball-hog, instead keeping her head up and stringing together the kind of passing (and backing it up with even more running) to gradually bring Bonfantini and others into the game, giving some greater meaning to Bavagnoli’s tactics. Roma may have been behind on the scoreline, and Juventus may have been playing a physically tough game to try and keep Roma down, but the Giallorosse threat on Juventus’ goal was consistently mounting towards half-time.
By the time the referee blew the whistle at the half, we were staring the familiar story dead in the face: A Roma side that was flattering to deceive, with some nice build-up play once they were down on the scoreline, but failing to really find that killer instinct once they reached the Juventus penalty area. Juventus, for their part, weren’t really doing much of anything beyond “good enough”. They took one of the few chances of the half that they needed to get ahead on the scoreline, and the Juve 1-0 lead was the only important stat at half-time.
There was also a point-blank Juve header that brought out an excellent parry from Camelia Ceasar just before half-time to keep Roma’s chances alive, and it was clear Roma needed to bring more substance into the second 45, and boy they would do that through the rocket-fuel performance of Angelica Soffia.
It was Soffia who would start winning the ball by pressing Juventus and intercepting their recycling of the ball in their own defensive half, when previously no other Roma player really got close to doing so. It was Soffia who would come inside the middle of the pitch and free herself to receive passes from her Roma teammates, giving that much-needed alchemy to Roma’s build-up play.
It was Soffia who would receive the ball in the middle of the field from one flank, before immediately threading the ball through to the other flank, acting as the Roma playmaker to put her teammates in constant numerical advantage over Juventus. Soffia was Roma’s number 10 on the day and grabbed the spotlight by turning on a dime to flummox two Juve markers inside Roma’s half, before Soffia drove the ball THROUGH another Juventus player, marking a 70-yard run up the pitch before Soffia was unceremoniously fouled on the edge of Juve’s area.
Unsurprisingly, as was fitting with the tone of the match up to that point, the referee didn’t call the foul and just let play go on. But the sheer energy and execution of Soffia’s play underlined the growing belief of Roma’s in this game, who just needed that final touch to the increasing amount of chances they were carving out at Juve keeper Laura Giuliani’s end of the pitch.
When Giuliani herself inexplicably messed up a touch in the 65th minute that gifted the ball at Roma striker Lindsey Thomas’ feet, you began to feel like Roma’s equalizer would never come as Thomas outdid Giuliani’s error with a poor touch of her own and failed to punish this increasingly tired Juventus side. But Roma’s energy never faded, and it took less than ten minutes later for Roma to finally change the record in every sense.
Banusic came on for Bonfantini, moving Paloma Lazaro to playing deeper in the hole while Banusic took up the centre-forward position. No sooner has Roma changed the look of their side than they would change the outlook of this game by finally getting on the scoresheet.
A Roma corner met Linari on the far side, whose right-footed pass set up Lindsey Thomas in the middle of the area to smash it home for Roma’s equalizer on the day.
A few minutes went by before Juventus won a dubious free-kick in Roma’s half, but the deflated Juve side immediately found themselves on the wrong end of a Roma counter-attack that wound up in another corner at the Bianconero end.
Roma would make their set-pieces count again here, as Giugliano directly found Paloma Lazaro for the Spanish forward to head home past Giuliani and put Roma up 2-1 on the day and with some breathing room in the tie. It was no less than Roma deserved at this point, with just barely ten minutes left in the game.
A few more minutes went by. Frustration then got the better of Martina Rosucci, who tried to pole-ax standout performer Angelica Soffia to the ground, and left the young Italian full-back in a crumpled heap on the ground for a few moments. That would, unfortunately, spell the end of Soffia’s match, subbed out by Kaja Erzen with Soffia receiving treatment on the sidelines for the rest of the afternoon. But cynical fouls from Juventus were just another hallmark of Roma’s superiority on the day, with less than five minutes to go.
It would only get worse (and even laxer from the referee) as Cristiana Girelli—who had done next-to-nothing all match—let out a wild elbow into Vanessa Bernauer’s chest, when Girelli could have just played the ball and tried to go at Roma’s goal from her position out wide. There was no attempt to play the ball whatsoever, and yet the referee only saw fit to give Girelli a tame yellow card. Juventus then finally created a dangerous moment, when a speculative long, looping shot actually dipped at the very last minute to hit the top of Ceasar’s crossbar. The game then sank into five minutes of extra time, with Juventus having one more say on the game from a corner.
90' - Girelli scores from a corner. Four minutes remaining of added time.— AS Roma Women (@ASRomaWomen) April 25, 2021
(3-4 agg.) | #ASRomaWomen
This time it was Juve’s turn to flight in a ball straight to their eventual scorer, who made no mistake heading the ball across Ceasar’s goal and into the far corner for 2-2 on the day. But Juventus still needed two goals on the day to avoid getting knocked out by Roma. Another Juventus corner came minutes later to really make Roma sweat about the result on the day, but that came to nothing and the match faded into a series of turnovers in the middle of the pitch before Juventus won one final corner with just seconds of injury time left to play. On the replay, it should have never been a corner as Maria Alves cross was simply looped, high and over but the referee felt Caesar got some kind of touch on it.
From that Juventus corner came the final goal of this match, as a scramble inside the box eventually saw Juve captain Sara Gama put away a rebound to put Juventus up 3-2 on the day. But that was literally the last action of the game, as the referee didn’t wait for play to resume before blowing the final whistle. The end was messy, and Roma only won this tie on away goals instead of an aggregate victory like their play deserved, but it was indeed Roma who were singing loudest and celebrating the length of the Vinovo pitch at the end of this game.
And it is Roma who advances to the Coppa Italia final to meet AC Milan, who themselves must now be considered to favorites to lift the trophy after Roma just dumped out the Coppa holders Juventus.
Woman of the Match
Angelica Soffia, no contest.
There were spirited performances from a lot of her teammates, but Soffia brought both the spirit and execution in her play that gave that much-needed alchemy to Roma’s away-goals victory and giant-slaying of Juventus. Her dynamism meant that Roma’s low-pressing trap actually made sense, preventing Juve from creating any lethal counter-attacks of their own through the middle (as we’d gotten so used to seeing in previous season between these two sides) and making Roma look fluid, as the away side outflanked Juventus and got into the Bianconere’s psyche.
From the moment Soffia was forced off the pitch due to Rosucci’s foul on her, Juventus began to find some way back into the game as they came up for air from Soffia’s vice-grip authority on the match up to that point.
Soffia transformed this game, and the tie, at will. She’s done her chances of representing Italy at the EURO 2021 tournament a huge boost with her headline-grabbing display at Vinovo today. Let’s just hope her injury isn’t too serious.